Have you recently experienced the pain of losing a close friend?  Or maybe, does the memory of such a loss still troubles you?

 Recently, I have been reading through some letters by the 17th century puritan John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.   In this particular letter, Newton is writing to Mrs. Wilberforce in 1769.  Mrs. Wilberforce is the aunt to the well-known William Wilberforce who was instrumental in abolishing slavery in the English empire.  As an encouragement to her, Newton writes a brief commentary on Psalm 62:5 – “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”

 In examining this letter, I have broken it down into 5 sections in order to make it easier to understand. 

#1) a theological truth, with great benefit to our souls

#2) a practical application to us

#3) an illustration to assist in application

#4) a return to the application

#5) a final exhortation to submit to the theological truth.

Newton writes:

“(#1) What reason have we to charge our souls in David’s words, “My Soul, wait  thou only upon God!”  A great stress should be laid upon that word only.  We dare not entirely shut Him out of our regards, but we are too apt to suffer something to share with Him.  This evil disposition is deeply fixed in our hearts; and the Lord orders all His dispositions towards us with a view to rooting it out; that being wearied with repeated disappointments, we may at length be compelled to betake ourselves to Him alone. 

“Why else do we experience so many changes and crosses?  Why are we so often in heaviness?  We know that He delights in the pleasure and prosperity of His servants; that He does not willingly afflict or grieve His children; but there is necessity on our parts in order to teach us that we have no stability in ourselves, and that no creature can do us good but by His appointment.

“(#2) The Lord gives us a dear friend to our comfort; but ere long we forget that the friend in only a channel of conveyance, and that all the comfort is from Himself.  To remind us of this, the stream is dried up, the friend torn away by death, or removed far from us, or perhaps friendship ceases, and a coolness insensibly takes place, we know not how or why:  the true reason is, that when we rejoiced amiss in our gourd, the Lord, for our good, sent a worm to the root of it.

“Instances of this kind or innumerable; and the great inference from them all, cease from man, cease from creatures, for wherein are they to be accounted of?  My soul, wait thou only, only upon the Lord, who is (according to Hebrews 4:13) He with whom we have to do for soul and body, for time and eternity!

“(#3) What thanks do we owe, that though we have not yet attained perfectly this lesson, yet we are admitted into that school where alone it can be learnt: and though we are poor, slow scholars, the great and effectual Teacher to whom we have been encouraged and enabled to apply, can and will bring us forward! . . . Though all are very dunces when He first receives them, not one was ever turned out incapable, for He makes them what He would have them to be. 

“Oh that we may set Him always before us, and consider every dispensation, person, thing, we meet in the course of every day, as messengers from Him, each bringing us some line of instruction for us to copy into that day’s experience!

“Whatever passes within us or around us may be improved (when He teaches us how) as a perpetual commentary upon His good Word.  If we converse and observe with this view, we may learn something every moment, wherever the path of duty leads us –in the streets, as well as in the closets—and from the conversation of those who know not God, as well as from those who do.

“(#4) Separation of our dear friends is, as you have observed, hard to flesh and blood; but grace can make it tolerable.  I have an abiding persuasion that the Lord can easily give more than ever He will take away.  A time of weeping must come, but the morning of joy will make amends for all.  Who can expound the meaning of that expression, “an exceeding and eternal weight of glory?” 

“The case of unconverted friends is still more burdensome to think of, but we have encouragement and warrant to pray and to hope.  He who called us can easily call others; and He seldom lays a desire of this sort very closely and warmly upon the hearts of His people, but when it is His gracious design sooner or later to give an answer of peace.

“(#5) However, it becomes us to be thankful for ourselves, and to bow our anxieties and reasoning before His sovereign will, who does as He pleases with His own.”

 

The exhortation of this letter is that we ought to wait only on the Lord.  We ought to understand that all good things come from God and are given to us by God in order that we might better learn of His wonder, grace and love.  Yet, we see in the application of this to good friends, how readily we will ignore it to the detriment of our souls.

How quickly will we get angry at God when a beloved friend is taken from us!  Yet, in these very moments we must remember that God is teaching us that “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)  No matter how close and how much of a benefit a friend is to us, they are a gift from God for our sanctification and growth in faith.  God sent them our way, not as an end in themselves, but to direct us to the Perfect Friend.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

When we lose a friend, in the midst of our sorrow, let us remember that God is sovereignly orchestrating all things “for the good of those who love God and have been called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28)

So let us wait on the Lord, and ONLY on the Lord.

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